Keith Murray Makes His Def Jam Debut

Excerpted from the magazine for

Not many rap artists get a second chance at having a successful career. With fans' constant desire for new talent, yesterday's hot acts can easily fall by the wayside. That's not the case for Keith Murray. The rapper is making his long-awaited return with his Def Jam debut, "He's Keith Murray."

Due April 29, the album is Murray's first in five years. The former Jive recording artist signed with Def Jam in 2001. The signing followed Murray's exoneration on assault charges stemming from a 1995 incident at a Connecticut nightclub. Sentenced to a five-year term in 1997 (suspended after three years), he served 30 months before an eyewitness came forward to say Murray had been wrongfully convicted.

In 1994, Jive released Murray's debut hit single, "The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World." A gold-certified album with the same title arrived the same year. In addition to subsequent solo albums -- 1996's "Enigma" and 1998's "It's a Beautiful Thing" -- Murray and fellow rapper/Def Jam artist Redman were founding members of Def Squad, along with EPMD's Erick Sermon. The trio scored a top-25 R&B hit in 1997 with a loose cover of the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."

"It was a learning process," Murray says of returning to the studio. "I had to get used to hearing myself on the mic again. Also, hearing and seeing what was out there now -- I had to check out the competition."

Murray enlisted such producers as Pete Rock, Jazze Pha, and Sermon to helm the boards for "He's Keith Murray." Murray reunites with Sermon and Redman on lead single "Yeah Yeah You Know It." It peaked at No. 53 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.

"["Yeah Yeah You Know It"] is an old-school hip-hop song," says Murray. "That's a definite joint right there, and I knew it the first time I heard it. That's hip-hop in its purest form."

According to Murray, the album more than just party tracks like the single "I have club joints, joints with real lyrical flow -- there's no one particular type of theme on this album," he says. "That's why I decided to name it 'He's Keith Murray.' Like my musical tastes, this album has a little bit of everything in it."

Murray, who is also featured in Electronic Art's "Def Jam Vendetta" videogame, will take part in the Def Jam Vendetta tour that begins May 7.

Excerpted from the April 19, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

To order a single copy of the issue, visit The Billboard Store.